Coralee & Brian repaired our Eastern Bluebird nest box this weekend & also built a nest box for an Eastern Screech-owl. The kids have spotted our female red-morph Eastern Screech-owl a couple times in the cedar trees beside the creek since my initial posting about our owl pair. Coralee has been collecting owl pellets from below their roosting spots for about a week. I think she plans to dissect the pellets soon.  Lots of fun to be had for a budding scientist!

Brian hung the owl box last night, but I think we need to move it as it is supposed to be near a branch for the young to climb upon when they begin to fledge.  We just placed it on the sturdiest tree near their roost site.  I’m not particularly optimistic about the owls using the box this year, but hopefully they will next year.  I think we just put it up too late.

Bluebird nest box.

Our Bluebird nest box.


Coralee & her homemade Screech-owl nest box (also works for American Kestrels & Buffleheads).



Our house & the new Screech-owl house.

Our house & the new Screech-owl house.

Cedar trees beyond the box where the owls have been roosting.

Cedar trees beyond the box where the owls have been roosting.

Within a few hours of cleaning out last year’s {unfortunate} wren nest from the bluebird box & giving the box a new lid, a group of bluebirds showed up! This was our yard’s FOY Eastern Bluebird (first of the year). Did the birds show up because we spruced up the box or did we spruce up the box because we somehow sensed the birds were about to arrive? A thought to ponder…like the tree falling in the forest.

We spotted two mating pairs & from our observations with the scope; the pairs were squirmishing over the box.  I hope one of the pairs was the victor.  We are planning to build a couple more boxes this year–need to get on that endeavor soon, I guess!  We have not seen any bluebirds today, but the weather has gone from spring sunshine & warmth to dreary wet cold rain sleet snow YUCK.  I hope these bluebirds were a sign spring is truly here & today is just a momentary weather hiccup!

©Coralee Bodeker

 ©Coralee Bodeker

©Coralee Bodeker

Male Eastern Bluebird, Benton County, IA;  ©Coralee Bodeker

Male Eastern Bluebird, Benton County, IA; ©Coralee Bodeker

Nest box plans for Eastern Bluebirds.
Nest box plans for Eastern Screech-owls.

Do you put up nest boxes in your yard?

Sidenote: Coralee & I have now found TWO Bald Eagle nests in our county to monitor!  Benton County represent!


To Be Three…now almost four {photo-heavy}

June turns four this weekend. I’m trying to be upbeat about this birthday & not sad that my baby is truly not a baby anymore. She keeps telling me, “Mama, I’m still your baby,” patting my hand or face as she says it.

Lots of photos in this post. Being three looks like it’s pretty awesome & I’m sure four will be even better.

{I’ve included an Interview with June at the bottom of the post.}










Stockton Island, Apostle Islands, Wisc

Stockton Island, Apostle Islands, Wisc




Pleasant Creek State Rec Area beach, Iowa

Pleasant Creek State Rec Area beach, Iowa


Favorite author/illustrator

Favorite author/illustrator












Indian Creek Nature Center prairie labyrinth, Iowa

Indian Creek Nature Center prairie labyrinth, Iowa


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!





Interview with a 3-Going-on-4-Year-Old

What’s your favorite color?  Pink.  Yellow.

What’s your favorite food?  Pizza.  And cake pops. {I think chocolate, chips & sour cream, black beans, and raw carrots constitute the majority of her diet, sadly.  For breakfast she often asks for just a bowl of milk with a spoon.}

Vegetable?  Carrots.

What’s your favorite animal?  Ponies.

Who do you love?  Co-a-lee {Coralee}

What’s your favorite pet?  Pepper {the cat}

What do you like to play?  I like to play LEGOs, that’s it.  And blocks.

Where do you like to go?  Go to rest-R-raunts.  {She likes Mexican, plain cheeseburgers, & Noodles & Co Mac & Cheese.}  Going to Nana and Papa’s.

What do you like to do outside?  Play with Merritt outside.  Eat snow, hee hee! {Mom Note:  No kidding!!!!  Thank goodness we didn’t have snow most of the winter.  She’s an addict!}

Who’s your best friend?  Co-a-lee!!!!  And Addisee {cousin}.

What’s your favorite bird?  Cardinal, the mom and dad.

What bird do you not really like?  Hawks  Why?  They eat my chickens!

What do you think you will be when you’re a big, grown-up girl and move away from home?  Go to school.  What will you do after school?  Go to another school.  {This sounds like so many people in my family…}

What’s your favorite food that mommy makes?  Cookies.

~ ~ ~

Being June

October 1, 2014: I asked her why she didn’t like my homemade squash soup, I don’t want to eat squash.  I like to PICK them, not eat them, Mom.

November 17, 2014: I attempted to read Shel Silverstein’s book “Where the Sidewalk Ends” to her.  I read a few poems & then gave up as she didn’t seem into it.  I laid the book down.  June intently examined the cover & then told me, That says creepy book.

June likes to chant, Peetzie sauce on the roof!  Peetzie sauce on the roof!–no clue where this came from.

She calls ‘swimming’–slumming.  To swim is–to slum.

The fattest, biggest chickens we own are Blue Cochins named Marianne & Margaret.  She calls them my baby chickens.

She spots a Cardinal & says–my favorite Cinda bird!–no idea why.

She thinks typing on a computer or on any other device is texting.

She can often be found sucking on a piece of ice that has been wrapped in a cloth napkin…one of her favorite pastimes once she figured out how to open the freezer.

She says, I’m the bestest girl ever.

She thinks wearing underwear on her head makes her Go Go Tomago from the film “Big Hero Six”.  She runs real fast around the house & slides on our wood floors in her socks with underwear on her head.

She loves being a matching girl to both her sister and brother–wearing the same clothes.  She’s fascinated by twins.

She calls gymnastics class jumpy class and loves her teacher to the moon & back–Miss Alyssa.

She ABHORS having her hair brushed, washed, styled.  She will, however, on occasion, tolerate her dad brushing her hair without fuss.  When told we are going to make her an appointment for a haircut {she’s only had one in her life}, she hollers I don’t want to be a boy!!!!

She equally ABHORS having her teeth brushed, but she is an angel at the dentist.  Go figure!

She LOVES her cats & chickens & puppies {2 adult English Setters} & thinks all of them should eat lots of food and then have babies.

She can identify Northern Cardinals, Northern Bobwhites (quail), Bald Eagles, Blue Jays, Downy Woodpeckers, Canada Geese, Black-capped Chickadees, and American Crows without assistance.  Thanks to the TV show “Wild Kratts,” she could probably also identify Greater Roadrunners & Peregrine Falcons if she saw either species.

But she can’t write her name nor read.  She does know how to recite the spelling of her name thanks to a little song I made up to the tune ‘O Christmas Tree’–J, U, N, E….J, U, N, E….my name is June….J, U, N, E.

She has “pet” boxelder bugs all over the house with a plethora of names.  Most of them seem to be named Foxy or Steppy.

~ ~ ~

I’m sure this is a work-in-progress list…

Happy 4th Birthday, Juniebug!



Two! But which owl is the original?


Coralee, there’s TWO!!!!

Several hours after posting yesterday about the red morph Eastern Screech-owl the kids found in a dead tree’s cavity above our creek, Brian & Merritt found the owl again using binoculars in the yard, but s/he now had a mate! Another red-morph ESO!

Two red morph Eastern Screech-owls; Benton County; top right owl appears larger, so female?  Male on bottom left?

Two red morph Eastern Screech-owls; Benton County; top right owl appears larger, so female? Male on bottom left?


Top right owl.

 They were dozing.  Opening one eye every now & then.  Roosting in a cedar/juniper tree just a few steps up-creek from the cavity.




Top right owl, probably the female…which makes me think she is new.


So who am I? This is the original owl we saw…do you think this is the owl in the top right or the bottom left? The bottom left owl is smaller & males are smaller.


Click to enlarge. Bottom left owl appears both smaller & a darker shade of red, so I’m assuming male based on size comparison.

 Coralee would really like to determine which owl we first spotted in the cavity–the top right owl or the bottom left?  I posted the photos again above to aid in your decision-making…can you help us?  What do you think?  If this is a mating pair, the bottom owl would be the male as it is smaller…but was it the male or the female in the cavity earlier?  Thanks for your help if you’re able to comment!  Click on any photo to enlarge.

Spring Birding & a Second Benton County ESO Red Morph


©Coralee Bodeker

Coralee & I (sometimes June) have been parked on the side of this road multiple times this past week in both the early mornings and just before dusk, observing migrating waterfowl as they stop-over in the ditch slough. We’ve seen a lot of interesting ducks–Hooded Mergansers, American Wigeons, Wood Ducks, one male Canvasback, a bunch of Canada Geese, & our first-of-the-year Red-winged Blackbird (ok, not a duck). The best part? This slough is literally less than three miles from our house. Coralee calls it her “secret birding spot,” but a lot of people have probably seen our car parked on the side of the road & wondered what on earth we were doing (a shoulder is practically non-existent)…we’re not very good at keeping secrets.

Bald Eagle, Benton County

Bald Eagle, Benton County

We’ve seen several Bald Eagles in the vicinity of our house. There has to be an eagle nest somewhere nearby. The Cedar River is less than five miles away.

Bald Eagle on-nest; Black Hawk County

Coralee & I became certified DNR Volunteer Wildlife Monitors this past Saturday & visited one of our two Bald Eagle nests this morning. See the yellow beak peaking out of the nest above? This nest is on Wolf Creek in an adjacent county.  Our county, Benton County, is one of less than a handful of counties in Iowa that has ZERO confirmed Eagle nests…Iowa has 99 counties total. Coralee is determined to find at least one nest in Benton County before the summer is out.  We see Bald Eagles on a daily basis here, so it’s inconceivable that none of these adult birds are nesting nearby.

Today in our own yard, along a small creek that feeds into the larger Prairie Creek, Coralee & Merritt literally stumbled upon an Eastern Screech-owl in a dead tree cavity.  And I do mean stumble.  They were looking for fossils at “Fossil Cross” (the best place to find fossils, I’m told, in our creek run) and happened to look above their heads and spotted a stunning red morph Eastern Screech-owl.  I previously posted on another rare sighting of this bird here.  Different individual.  Our ESO is quite a bit smaller, so we’re thinking it’s a male.  The one at the Benton County Nature Center has been deemed a female by the naturalists.


There’s an Eastern Screech-owl somewhere in this photo…click on the photo to enlarge.


Now do you see me?

 Left side of the photograph, in the focus circle.  Tufts!


©Coralee Bodeker


I see you!

 Incredible.  I still can’t believe we’ve now seen TWO of this color variation in our own county in about a month’s time.

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County

Eastern Screech-owl (red morph); Benton County. Look at those talons! Such a small bird, but he’s tough.


Eastern Screech-owl silhouette.

 We attempted to remain calm & quiet, but after hauling the scope into the creek* (through brush, under an old barbed wire fence, over slipperly creek rocks, across mud–always mud at our house), obviously he was onto us.  He allowed us at least a 10 minute view & then flew to a nearby tree.  Coralee has instructed us all that we are NOT to enter the creek anymore looking for him.  She wants him to stay in our yard.  If we want to check the tree cavity we must do so from the yard itself with binoculars.

I think we’re raising ourselves a birder here.

*I had sweet potato tots cooking in the oven & Brian had polish on the grill when Coralee came vaulting into the house yelling at me, breathlessly, “there’s a red morph Eastern Screech-owl in the creek, come on!!!!”  For a split second I thought maybe she was kidding…but she ran back out the door.  I rushed into the garage, threw on slop boots, searched the car for the scope, & sprinted down the front hill after her.  Food be damned!  There’s an owl in the creek! 😉

Wash Away Winter, wash away






Always carry a big stick.

Always carry a big stick.






“There’s lots of creeks in our yard,” June told me Sunday afternoon as we took a hike.

Snowmelt is filling Prairie Creek & rushing fast across the western slope out front.

June’s ski trail has given up, only weak prints whisper in the slushy snow now.

An icy tide pool has appeared along the southern field edge.  Perfect for exploring & getting your mittens sopping.

Winter is washing away & I can feel spring hovering nearby.

Sometimes it’s fun to put on a pair of galoshes & explore the puddles & pools as a child would…especially if you take a child along on your trek & let it be.  Let it be, Ruby.  I think I need to be told that more.

The melt water is cold, so cold, shocking when you dip your fingers in it.

I waded too deep & some got in my boots.  June said it was ok.

I totally believed her.


Has winter begun to wash away where you are?


I went out for what I believe to be one final nordic ski this winter (temps are forecast to rIsE substantially soon)…the skies in Iowa looked like this…

The clouds were moving from west to east at such a swift pace, the sky felt like it was sucking me up & beyond…

The trail out back of our house looks like this…

There’s a hard icy crust on top of the 4-5inch base. The trail was fast, slick, possibly a bit too exciting.

With the wind at my back, I thoroughly enjoyed the ski from trailhead to back fence.  Once I crested the hill at the back 40 & turned around to face the field, the wind smacked me hard.  My throat was already burning from the combination of exertion and cutting raw air, now any exposed skin ached.  I scrunched down in the skis and pushed hard & fast with my calves in order to get the return ski over with & out of the exposure.  At one point I was struck with a fierce headache across my forehead.  The wind was piercing and dense, no escape in the open field even beside the woods.


In the yard I found Pepper enjoying the warm rays out of the wind & keeping an eye on the House Sparrow colony that lives in our bridal wreath bushes.

Gathered up my gear & wondered if that was my final run this season…

Slicing across the last of winter’s snow, enjoying the pause that is these cold months, anticipating what lies ahead, but wanting to linger in this interlude.

Soon it will be spring.

First Ski, bittersweet

June has been riding on my back as I cross-country ski since she was less than a year old.  I’ve listened to her chattering in my ear as I glide along the alfalfa field for four winters now.  Her birthday is at the end of this month and we’re thinking this will be the last year I am able to carry her while skiing.  Very bittersweet.  Brian took her skiing around the yard last night on her own set of skis (Merritt’s first pair).  The equipment was a little too big, but she was delighted with her first ski nonetheless.

Our baby girl is growing up.

(About 20/21 seconds in on the second video she pauses to listen to a bird.  That’s my girl.)